Several publicly traded companies are trying to monetize the metaverse that combines the technologies behind virtual reality, storytelling reality, and blockchain. But what does the term ‘metaverse’ really mean?
The term ‘metaverse’ is complex. It is a contraction of the term ‘meta’ and the English word ‘universe’. Neal Stephenson first used the term in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. Human beings, in the form of programmable avatars, communicate with each other as they move in a three-dimensional virtual world. Stephenson uses the term “metaverse” to describe a successor to the Internet based on virtual reality.
The term ‘metaverse’ is complex. It is a contraction of the term ‘meta’ and the English word ‘universe’. Neal Stephenson first used the term in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. Human beings, in the form of programmable avatars, communicate with each other as they move in a three-dimensional virtual world. Stephenson uses the term “metaverse” to describe a successor to the Internet based on virtual reality. The modern metaverse can be defined as a simulated digital environment that combines augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and blockchain. These tools are used to create spaces that mimic the real world and where players or avatars have very different experiences. An avatar is an image or figure that symbolizes a person, for example as an alter ego you play a computer game with. Stephenson’s metaverse is an urban setting. The virtual property is owned by Global Multimedia Protocol Group. That’s a fictitious part of the real Association for Computing Machinery. The land is for sale and the owner can build on it buildings that are for rent or for sale. What opportunities does that offer for real estate giants? To be sure, we’ve seen only a fraction of the metaverse’s commercial potential. A whole range of technologies are used. Virtual and augmented reality are the most important. Virtual reality is a computer technique that allows the user of special VR glasses to appear to be in another reality. The glasses replace the visible reality with an image that is generated digitally. The virtual reality that is then made visible can be realistic or fictional. For example, surgeons can practice certain techniques or players can land on Mars and eliminate aliens there. Augmented reality (AR) or augmented reality goes a little further. This technology scatters computer-generated images over the real world, making them visible at the same time. According to Microsoft, there are also technologies that are not VR or AR, but are somewhere in between. The company calls it Mixed Reality (MR). But not everyone follows Microsoft’s reasoning. For example, MR glasses from Acer, Dell, Lenovo, HP, and Samsung are simply VR glasses. The Microsoft HoloLens are AR glasses. With that, already some publicly traded company names have fallen that are trying to monetize the metaverse that combines all those technologies. Major hardware and software companies rank first in manufacturing the technology and products needed to navigate those artificial worlds. Facebook is one of the pioneers. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is trying to get his sputtering company back on the giant profitable path. To show that he means business, he even changed his company name to Meta Platforms. Apple continued to watch from the sidelines until early last year. But recently, the Silicon Valley giant also went meta-road. When asked recently about Apple’s initiatives in this area, CEO Tim Cook responded that Apple is very interested in it and is investing in it “accordingly.” He also mentioned that Apple has over 14,000 ARKit apps on the App Store. ARKit is Apple’s augmented reality framework. The company has already spent a lot of time and energy behind the scenes building software to make it easier for developers to implement augmented reality, preferably in Apple products. But aside from the obvious companies, there are a host of others that will take advantage of the metaverse’s new capabilities. For example, who wouldn’t want to take a trip to an exotic country without facing the dangers and bearing the costs? How many dreamers don’t want to drive a Ferrari or a Lamborghini or some other fast car that may or may not exist? The entertainment industry with its computer games is looking for massive ways to make money from the nearly endless possibilities of the metaverse. The big amusement parks are looking at how they can have attractions visited for a fee digitally, but with a maximum experience with wind, smell and sound. The health sector has been working for years in an environment that predates the metaverse . Surgeons train and experiment with virtual patients. But here too that is just the beginning. It is already technically possible for a surgeon located in Brussels to operate on a patient in New York. Apple’s CEO has previously pointed to examples of the Apple Watch saving lives. Apple Watch health sensors, for example for monitoring blood pressure and blood sugar, will soon be much more powerful. The sensors would also be integrated into the AirPods. The metaverse can also be used for all sorts of fully realistic simulations that can help treat psychological complaints, such as fear of flying and heights, or practicing public speaking. The real estate sector has been using VR for several years to virtually visit homes. But that’s just the beginning. Entirely new business opportunities are emerging in a purely digital economy. On existing platforms, virtual identities are only tied to one platform. But in the metaverse, avatars can be taken anywhere. The platforms are interoperable. You can take virtual items like clothes, accessories or cars from one platform to another. The World of Warcraft computer game is a virtual world. Players can buy and sell all kinds of things there. Fortnite also has virtual experiences. But they are almost alone. They don’t yet encompass the scope of the metaverse. Meta Platforms and Microsoft are leading the way. Also, all sorts of other companies are creating infrastructure for the metaverse. We are thinking of Nvidia, Unity, Roblox and Snap. Sony is also involved. The company, along with Kirkbi, is investing $2 billion in Epic Games to develop a kid-friendly metaverse. However, the metaverse faces some practical problems that have yet to be resolved. VR headsets are still very clunky. Many users experience dizziness or physical pain if they use the device for a long time. AR glasses face similar problems. Also, not everyone wants to be seen with those clumsy devices on their heads. It’s only a matter of time before the technology can be integrated into simple-looking, affordable glasses. But lightweight wireless headphones still can’t achieve the necessary pixel density. Also, there are no standardized technical specifications for metaverse implementations yet. That seems to be one of the main obstacles to a rapid advancement of the metaverse. Also, privacy issues arise in metaverse predecessors. All kinds of advertisers try to use and abuse the private data of the players. There are also MeToo problems. People complain of sexual harassment and even assault on their avatar.